Want to improve employee productivity? It’s interesting to look at how tea helped fuel the Industrial Revolution. At The Tea Spot, I marvel at how dedicated and “on it” everyone is. Yes, they’re all extraordinary people – talented, smart, team-oriented, and passionate – but they’re also drinking tea all day! I’ve started wondering if that could have something to do with their level of health and fitness, as well as their productivity.
Before tea became popular in England, industrial workers often drank beer. Coffeehouses, which began opening up in the 17th Century, were frequented by intellectuals. There you could find bookshelves, mirrors in gilt frames, and good furniture. The coffeehouses stood in stark contrast to the taverns where alcohol was served.
During Europe’s 18th Century Industrial Revolution, heavy machinery replaced some tasks previously done by laborers. Consequently, a new class of skilled workers was born to operate the machines being introduced into factories. These factories had industrial machinery and human laborers working in concert – something that required close shift management and supervision.
The first industry to experience this shift was the textile industry. Much like intellectuals who had taken to drinking coffee in the 17th Century, the new laborers of the 18th Century took to drinking tea instead of beer. Caffeinated tea kept people sharp and on task, which the alcoholic beer had not. This was especially important as human laborers worked side by side with fast-moving, heavy machinery.
Also of benefit were tea’s antioxidant and antibacterial health properties. Tea had been helping to reduce waterborne diseases in China for over 2,000 years, and was helping to do the same for an industrializing workforce. England experienced a sharp drop in dysentery in the 18th Century.
So … for a sharp and healthy workforce, businesses should look at adding some fresh loose-leaf teas to their company kitchen or breakroom. It will become a much-appreciated luxury to both the business and the employees.
This article has been updated from the original publication date in September 2011